AP NEWS

Transportation service in Greenwich turns the corner, preps for fundraiser

March 25, 2019

GREENWICH — With a far more secure financial foundation now in place, the Transportation Association of Greenwich is preparing for a fundraiser to continue that fiscal momentum.

TAG will hold its casino night fundraiser on March 30 at Gabriele’s of Greenwich. The evening, which will be filled with friendly wagers, is important for the future of the nonprofit transportation service.

“It’s extremely critical,” said Mike Miller, TAG board member and treasurer. “It’s part of our final push to finish the (fiscal) year. Our target is about $65,000, and so far we have about $30,000 from it. And a lot of that will come from the casino night itself.”

For a year, TAG has focused on improving its fiscal outlook by reducing the staff and increasing the cost of rides, among other strategies. That turned a $150,000 cash shortfall at the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year into a projected $42,000 surplus for the second half of fiscal year 2019.

Overall, TAG is looking at an overall surplus of $8,000 or more for 2018-19, after seeing losses in the first half of the fiscal year. Last month, TAG’s board projected a surplus of more than $50,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“As recently as several months ago, there were concerns about not even being able to make our payroll,” Miller said. “Today, we are looking forward to a positive cash flow and being able to continue that momentum into 2020.”

Debra Vetromile, TAG’s executive director, is optimistic about the future of the nonprofit, which provides transportation services for seniors and all disabled residents of Greenwich.

“I feel very optimistic and very excited,” Vetromile said of TAG’s fiscal improvement. “It’s been an extremely challenging time, but we never lost faith that the tide would turn and we would end up where we are now.”

To pull that off, TAG needs the support of the public at the casino night fundraiser.

Proceeds of ticket sales will go directly to TAG. The event will also include an auction with such items as weekend getaways, tickets to the Greenwich Town Party, gift certificates and luxury prizes. Chips won at the casino games, which will include blackjack, poker, slots and roulette, can be cashed in for the auction items.

The meal dished up will include jumbo shrimp cocktails, crab cakes, filet mignon, chicken scarpariello, prosciutto and melon, and more. There will also be wine, beer and soft drinks, a fruit platter and a dessert assortment.

TAG’s economic difficulties began in 2017 after it lost more than $1 million in state contracts. Although TAG receives some town funding, it depends on contracts for its services as well as private donations.

TAG operates in town through its Dial-A-Ride program, which takes local seniors to medical appointments and other critical needs, as well as through the Safe Rides program, which ensures teenagers have safe transportation on weekends.

Additional town money was needed to plug the $150,000 shortfall last year. Last month, Miller told the town’s Board of Estimate and Taxation that it was a “a very rough year but a very necessary year for TAG to restructure.” This past Tuesday, Miller appeared again before the BET’s Budget Committee to secure approval of the release of $73,250 for TAG for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

“We’re well on our way to repairing much of the financial damage that had taken place over the past several years at TAG,” Miller told the committee on Tuesday. “The repair required a tremendous amount of restructuring. It required us to shrink down from an organization that was much larger at the time when we started this progress.”

The Budget Committee unanimously voted to recommend release of the money and it is expected to come up for a vote before the full BET on Monday.

TAG is slated to receive a $277,000 allocation from the town in the 2019-20 municipal budget, which will be voted upon by the BET on March 28. That allocation is likely to have a similar condition that the BET approved for TAG last year in which the organization must return to the BET for release of the money in four allocations, one for each fiscal quarter.

Looking back at the past year, Miller said, “What’s happened here is truly a community effort. A lot of work went into this not just from the board and TAG staff but also the community as a whole, the Greenwich United Way, the BET, Town Hall and people who have been such generous supporters to TAG. This is a tremendous success that we can all be proud of.”

Tickets to the Casino Night can be purchased online at www.ridetag.org/ .

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com